Review: Red 2 (2013)

Red 2

Red, a sort of adaptation to DC Comics’ limited comic book series of the same name, was released two years ago to modest box office success and lukewarm critical reception. You’d think, then, that the sequel, which sees Dean Parisot assume the directorial reigns, would iron out the issues that plagued its predecessor. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case, and Red 2 ends up being as nonsensical, irritating and lacking in credible narrative as Red was. Continue reading “Review: Red 2 (2013)”

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News: Fernando Meirelles’ 360 Chosen To Open The 55th BFI London Film Festival

Romantic drama 360, starring Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, has been selected to open the 55th BFI London Film Festival on October 12.

360, which marks director Fernando Meirelles’ long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, also stars Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster, Jamel Debbouze, Lucia Siposová, Maria Flor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Moritz Bleibtreu. Continue reading “News: Fernando Meirelles’ 360 Chosen To Open The 55th BFI London Film Festival”

Review: Thor (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is the latest comic-book adaptation from Marvel, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård.

The film centres on Thor (Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior, who is cast down to Earth by his father Odin (Hopkins) and is forced to live among humans. A beautiful young scientist, Jane Foster (Portman), has a profound effect on Thor, awakening romantic feelings for the first time.

It’s while on Earth that Thor must learn what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.

Branagh, who seemed at first like an odd choice for director, succeeds in making the fantastical elements feel grounded and realistic: something which was always going to be tricky to achieve. He employs plenty of sweeping cinematography to fully explore the intricately detailed environments, never letting the epic scale get out of hand.

This is aided in no small part by a strong, humorous and consistent screenplay – full of snappy dialogue, subtle references and nifty cameos – which improves the somewhat predictable morality tale. Moreover, he has elicited convincing, enthusiastic performances from his eclectic cast.

Hemsworth truly embodies Thor, proving himself more than capable both in terms of action and humour, stepping up from minor supporting actor to a leading Hollywood star.

He stands out amongst a heavy-weight supporting cast, including ditzy and on-fire Portman, a hilarious and shamefully understated Dennings and an ever-solid Skarsgård.

Hiddleston delivers an effective, and wholly opposing, performance as Thor’s twisted brother Loki – a far cry from his recent low-key turn in Archipelago. Hopkins, as is to be expected, adds a touch of cinematic class as the patriarchal Odin.

It’s a shame the supporting characters aren’t further explored, but it’s a minor issue and understandable considering the circumstances. It’s encouraging to hear that various roles were beefed up after test-screening reactions.

There are, like many big-budget productions, a number of visual and narrative flaws, but Thor manages to be a superbly grounded, infectiously gratifying and valiantly executed summer blockbuster, completely defying mediocre expectations.

All involved in production have done a commendable job in making this superhero movie feel as seasoned and entertaining as possible, embracing the absurd in a way that entirely proves Branagh a sensible choice in director, and Hemsworth a fantastic Thor.

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.

The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.

Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.

Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.

The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.

The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.

Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.

While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.

It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.

Poster: Thor

Director – Kenneth Branagh

Starring – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman

Review: The Rite (2011)

Loosely based on Matt Baglio’s novel The Rite: The Making of a Modern Excorcist, The Rite traces the experiences of Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), a young seminary student who discovers the true powers of faith when he’s drafted into the Vatican’s Exorcism School and confronted by the forces of darkness.

Mikael Håfström’s direction is competent, and makes full use of the wonderful city of Rome, but never breaks free from its bleak, by-the-numbers nature.

The script, by Michael Pertroni, is predictable, starting off placid and, aside from picking up slightly when Father Matthew enters, ends in a rushed, disappointing manner, one that predominantly sticks to the thoroughly-mined themes of previous exorcism-orientated horror films.

Fortunately, even with the film falling apart at the seams, Hopkins stays on form, continually shining. He plays Father Lucas as a smooth and effortlessly witty priest, in the vein of Hannibal Lector. Everything he does is interesting to watch, and somehow makes you believe you’re watching a very different, more compelling film.

It’s a shame, then, that the film continually pulls focus back to Kovak. While intriguing, O’Donoghue doesn’t have the zealous nature to hold audiences attention, and Kovak suffers for it, never achieving the powerful stance required, often coming across as plain boring.

The supporting cast, including turns from Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer, populate the background to great avail, delivering compelling performances in their shamefully limited roles.

The Rite, despite a solid turn from Hopkins, is ultimately a strained, predictable and largely irrelevant addition to the exorcism sub-genre.